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New 3-D printed water sensor may cut risk of waterborne illness


Toronto, July 20 (IANS) Using a 3D printer, researchers have designed a tiny and cost-effective sensor that can monitor drinking water quality in real time and help protect against waterborne illness, such as E. coli infections.

The sensors used in the device are wireless, that report back to the testing stations, and works independently — meaning that if one stops working, it does not bring down the whole system.

And since they are made using 3D printers, they are fast, inexpensive and easy to produce, the researchers said.

"This highly portable sensor system is capable of constantly measuring several water quality parameters such as turbidity, pH, conductivity, temperature, and residual chlorine, and sending the data to a central system wirelessly," said Mina Hoorfar, Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.

The device is also reliable and sturdy enough to provide accurate readings regardless of water pressure or temperature.

The new miniaturised water quality sensors are cheap to make, can operate continuously and can be deployed anywhere in the water distribution system, Hoofar said.

"Current water safety practice involves only periodic hand testing, which limits sampling frequency and leads to a higher probably of disease outbreak," she added, in the paper published in the journal Sensors.

Drinking contaminated water can lead to waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, diarrhoeal disease, guinea worm disease and giardia.

Unlike current water testing processes, which are "upstream" of the water distribution system, the 3D printed devices could be deployed virtually anywhere, even within homes. This could provide an extra layer of water safety and protect consumers from any tainted or unsafe water, Hoorfar said.

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